Ask John: What’s the Worst Anime Ever Made?

Question:
What, in your opinion, is the worst anime that was ever made?

Answer:
Having not seen all of the anime ever made, naturally it’s impossible for me to try to pick the worst anime ever made. Word of mouth about great titles spreads rapidly, but most people having seen a really awful anime usually try to wipe it from memory as quickly as possible rather than file it away as trivia or torture friends with it. Even based on personal experience it’s difficult to come up with a singular worst anime ever seen because I do tend to forget about bad anime pretty quickly. And even with those that I do remember, my opinions are subjective, so what was bad to me may be passable or even enjoyable to someone else.

All that being said, it’s still difficult for me to select a single worst anime I’ve ever seen. A few candidates, though, do come to mind. Although it’s been over a decade since I saw it, the second Violence Hero Riki-Oh OAV remains in my mind as one of the most painful 45 minutes I’ve ever experienced. I don’t even remember exactly what was so bad about it, but I do recall that after watching it I was quite upset about having been incontrovertibly emotionally damaged. I was likewise horrified by the slightly more recent OAV Dog Soldier: Shadows of the Past, which was little more than a horrendous Japanese rip-off of the American Rambo cartoon. I have little argument with anime blatantly stealing concepts from American films and animation, but why would anyone have thought it was a good idea to re-make the Rambo cartoon as an anime OAV featuring appropriately poor animation quality and a nonsensical story about a stolen cure to the AIDS virus that doesn’t actually exist.

1980s anime is famous for its extreme emphasis on style over substance, but the Bavi-Stock OAV simply disregarded all semblance of animation quality, story or even logic. The contemporary Battle Royal High School OAV proved that nonsensical, utterly confusing, ridiculous sex and violence could still be produced well and provide mindless entertainment. But Bavi-Stock simply couldn’t even get that much right.

Getting everything wrong also occasionally applies to the Gundam franchise. In an attempt to take Gundam in a new direction and attract new viewers, the 1994 G-Gundam TV series was the first Gundam series to be outside of the traditional Gundam time continuity. Even with direction by Yasuhiro Imagawa, who impressed the world with the Giant Robo animation, silly mecha and mecha designs, an awful story eliminating the socio-political sub-text traditional of Gundam, and painfully poor art design and animation turned G-Gundam into one of the biggest mis-steps in anime history. But unfortunately, in 1996 the error was repeated with the Gundam X TV series, the only Gundam series of the 80s and 90s to be canceled due to poor ratings. The biggest flaw of Gundam X was in simply creating a series with absolutely no likeable characters. Every character in the series was simply so self absorbed and ill-tempered that watching the series was simply an exercise in aggravation tolerance that most fans quickly decided to forgo.

Video game adaptations make up a large portion of my list. The Battle Arena Toshinden anime OAV series had great potential with direction by Masami Obari (who’s usually reliable for entertaining, if somewhat illogical, fluff) and character design by Tsukasa Kotobuki. While the first OAV served up exceptional style (at the expense of logical story), the hideous second episode completely gave up any pretense of style, story or even production values. A similar criticism can be made of the entire Tekken OAV series, which chose to virtually disregard the already constructed story from the games in favor of incohesive character studies of painfully uninteresting and underwritten characters, topped off by distressingly poor quality digital animation. The Samurai Spirits TV movie and the first Powerdolls OAV also proved that a great license doesn’t necessarily make for a great anime adaptation. Both video games had the potential to be wonderfully exciting entertainment. However, poor animation quality, infantile writing, and action based on the “A-Team” school of accuracy sunk both of these shows into sub-mediocrity. Sin: The Movie was yet another failed experiment and video game adaptation by my standards. In attempting to create an American story with Japanese style, the Sin OAV simply failed to succeed on either front. Poor characterizations, uninspired action, mediocre animation quality, poorly integrated and unnecessary CG and thoughtless production and costume design all suggest a mish-mash of influences and styles struggling to keep their heads above water and merely succeeding in dragging each other down.

I’ll probably meet with resistance over mentioning Weiss Kreuz and Dragonball GT, but both of these TV series and the Gundress movie top my list of greatest disappointments. Dragonball GT was, for the most part, at least watchable because it had such well developed characters to work with, but without the guidance of Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama, the wit and humor of Dragonball was lost, and the aimless, arbitrary later half of Dragonball GT virtually screamed of a production staff making up the story as they went along. With its concept of stealthy teen assassins, rockin’ J-pop score and impressive opening animation, Weiss Kreuz had a virtually paint-by-numbers formula for success that managed to implode itself due to horrendously poor animation quality, at times stunningly bad art design, contrived and unoriginal writing and painfully clich├ęd characterizations that relied on tired stereotypes rather than individuality and personality. The same flaws, coupled with a rushed production schedule and severely under funded budget caused what should have been every anime fan’s dream action film to become every animation fan’s worst nightmare in Gundress. Featuring a story, character and mecha designs all provided by Masamune Shirow, and assembled after the success of the Ghost in the Shell motion picture, it would seem like the fast-paced, violent and gritty mecha action of Appleseed combined with a bevy of beautiful anime ladies in skin-tight uniforms would spell guaranteed success. But the story and budget of a 45 minute OAV expanded to a feature length film simply spelled disaster the like of which the Japanese anime industry has never seen before or since. Gundress is the only anime film I know of that was actually released to the public in Japan before it was even finished! Unfortunately, the final, completed film released only briefly in a limited edition DVD available only through Japanese internet sale did little to support the films annoyingly bloodless (both literally and figuratively) action, weak, underwritten characterizations, glaring lapses in logic and story development, simply ugly art design and appallingly stilted and clunky animation quality.

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